Lawyer Monthly - Legal Awards 2021

25 Since 1981, Leger has been recognized as a “Proctor in Admiralty” by the Maritime Law Association of the United States. He is a member of the Southeast Admiralty Law Institute and the maritime law sections of the American Association of Justice, the Louisiana Association of Justice and other bar organizations. Over the years he has lectured extensively and written on maritime law and complex litigation topics at Harvard Law School, Tulane Law School, Loyola Law School, the University of New Orleans, LSU Law School, and various law associations. He is Past President of the New Orleans Bar Association and the New Orleans Bar Foundation and has served in numerous capacities in other bar and legal associations. Notable Maritime Cases Notably, Leger was Special Trial Counsel in the relatively recent BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill case and was a member of the Phase I and Phase II Trial Team. He was the lead negotiator on behalf of Louisiana local governments in the historic government settlements with BP. He represented hundreds of businesses, citizens, and governments in the litigation. In the early stages of the litigation, Leger was asked by US Senator Mary Landrieu to work with and advise attorney Kenneth Feinberg, who had been brought in by BP to attempt to develop a mass settlement with the numerous claimants involved. Ultimately, this program and the successor program exceeded more than $65 billion to businesses, fishermen, and government entities. This case is undoubtedly the largest maritime environmental disaster in history. As part of the discovery team, Leger and others travelled to London to depose corporate executives of BP in addition to the 300 depositions taken in New Orleans. But Leger’s involvement in high profile maritime disasters dates to 1980 when a Peruvian cargo ship, the M/V INCA TUPAC YUPANQUI, lost steerage and collided with a butane barge on the Mississippi River. Leger had only months before formed his own firm and was asked by a lawyer representing three of the horribly injured and burned Peruvian seamen to represent them. He had previously represented primarily vessel and shipowner interests. The case was anything but routine, as it turned out that the ship was owned by the Peruvian government, and the collision became a major political issue in the first presidential elections in Peru in many years. The young lawyer suddenly found himself against many of the top maritime lawyers in the country. After weeks of depositions in New Orleans, lawyers travelled to Peru and Germany for depositions. The young Leger had to borrow money to finance the travel and litigation. While in Peru, they faced demonstrations and political intrigue. One of the more mysterious cases in which Leger was involved was the case of the M/V POET. The POET, a cargo ship with 25 crewmen, left the port of Philadelphia bound for Egypt. It disappeared and was never heard from again. The most extensive search in maritime history followed. Nothing was ever found. Leger represented the families of five of the crew members. There was never real closure for them, as rumors circulated in the news media and in the maritime community that either the ship had been involved in the famous “arms for hostages” scandal or that it had been taken by pirates. This disappearance remains one of the mysteries of the sea. A relatively minor collision of two ships on the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet generated a case of major legal import. When the M/V TESTBANK and the M/V SEA DANIEL collided, a container full of toxic chemicals spilled into the waters of the Gulf Outlet, causing toxic exposure to the important seafood, shrimping and oyster industry in that area. Leger was appointed chairman of the Plaintiffs Steering Committee by the Federal Judge overseeing the case. The case involved more than 50 lawyers and thousands of members of the seafood industry. While the court ultimately ruled in favor of claims of oystermen and fishermen, it historically denied the claims of land-based seafood restaurants, marinas, tackle shops, etc. which had sustained economic losses but no physical damage. The ruling was based on a long-held maritime concept known as the Robins Drydock rule. Leger appealed the case to the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and ultimately the appeal was heard en banc. To this day, this case and its progeny continue to guide the determination of economic loss and business damages in maritime cases. Interestingly, the unfairness of the TESTBANK/Robins Drydock rule was highlighted in the legal aftermath of the EXXON VALDEZ oil spill in Alaska, which led Congress to pass the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 – which ultimately played such an important role in the BP/DEEPWATER HORIZON oil spill. In 1997, ten shopping days before Christmas, a Chinese freighter – the M/V BRIGHTFILD – lost steering power on the Mississippi River and crashed into a shopping center located on the riverfront in downtown New Orleans. Leger was appointed Notably, Leger was Special Trial Counsel in the relatively recent BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill case and was a member of the Phase I and Phase II Trial Team. LAWYER MONTHLY LEGAL AWARDS 2021 USA

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